One of the weaknesses the Detroit Lions faced going into last season was a lack of depth at the Tackle positions. Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus returned to starters duty to open up the 2011 with no real competition, primarily because promising 2010 draft pick Jason Fox couldn’t get healthy.
After signing a new 2 year, $6 Million dollar contract prior to the season, Jeff Backus put together another season as a league-average contributor from the Left Tackle position. Backus will turn 35 in September, and while his window as a player is closing quickly, he is still capable of performing well this season.
Gosder Cherilus was not as productive as teammate Jeff Backus, however. Cherilus was one of the league’s worst performers last season, not only in blown assignments, but in penalties as well. His poor performance came as no surprise to Lions fans, as Cherilus has been considered a bust since he was drafted in the first round in 2008.
The Lion’s offensive scheme doesn’t require top of the line Offensive Tackles. The quick-strike offense allows Quarterbacks to regulate the rush by getting the ball to the outside quicker than a defense can get to the Quarterback. Even so, Cherilus’ performance last year left a lot to be desired.
What a difference a year can make.
First round draft pick Riley Reiff received snaps as the primary back-up at Left Tackle in OTAs. In shorts, Reiff looked impressive. The coaching staff is eager to see how he’ll perform in the preseason, where he’ll be in a competition with incumbent starter Jeff Backus and indirectly in a competition with Right Tackle Gosder Cherilus.
The Detroit Lions didn’t rush Nick Fairley into playing time, so don’t expect them to rush Riley Reiff on to the field unless he is ready.
Jonathan Scott, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2006, has returned to the team after being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Scott started 28 games at Offensive Tackle for the Steelers during his time in Pittsburgh.
The biggest addition to the depth could be Jason Fox. Although Fox was on the team last season, he was on the Injured Reserve and thus unavailable. Fox was being groomed to take over at the Left Tackle position, but his long-term health has come into question.
If Jason Fox is truly healthy, expect Fox to be one of the final four at Offensive Tackle for the Lions.
For the first time in some time, the Lions will have a choice to make where one of the players that doesn’t make it onto roster is acquired by another team. With Backus and Reiff being locks to make the roster, Scott, Fox, and former first round draft pick Gosder Cherilus are all competing for two spots.
I’m not sure they can make a bad choice.